Nevsky Prospect, the most famous street in St Petersburg, is a smorgasbord of architectural masterpieces, modern marvels, superlative boutiques and restaurants; and offers the discerning traveller an authentic insight into one of the most fascinating cultures on earth. Historic, proud and defiant, St Petersburg reigns supreme on any Russian itinerary, and is ideal for those who want an off the beaten path adventure. Book a Nevsky Prospekt apartment and make sure you include at least one of the following world-class museums on your sightseeing tour.
The Russian Museum, 2 Griboyedov Canal
The country’s first fine-arts museum was opened over a century ago, and was inaugurated at the same time that Tsar Nicholas II came to power. The Russian Museum encompasses many of the nearby former royal palaces and the main building, the Mikhailovsky Palace, is where the most important works of art are housed.
The building itself is pure opulent splendour, and that’s just from the outside! Once you step in you’ll be struck by the magnificence which was once upon a time the norm among the nobility. But it’s the works of art the museum boasts which really deserve your utmost attention.
The Russian Museum is considered the headquarters of Russian artistic history, is a research and educational centre, aside from showcasing invaluable works by Repin, Ayvazovsky and Brullov among many other famous artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. There are permanent, as well as temporary exhibitions spread out through the Stroganov, Mikhailovsky and Marble Palaces. The Museum should definitely be on your hit list of the history of Russian art, as well as the art itself, interests you greatly.
The exhibitions here can be a little overwhelming to the uninitiated, so we suggest you pick up a current exhibition guide and decide beforehand the works you’re interested in seeing. The Russian Museum is open every day from 10am to 5pm, except Tuesdays.
Anichkov Palace, 39 Nevsky Prospekt
If you happen to be awestruck at the site of a grandiose building while strolling on Nevsky Prospekt, chances are you’ve just come across the Anichkov Palace. Once regarded as the most dazzling Baroque-style imperial mansion in the country, the 18th century home of Empress Elizabeth is kept in immaculate condition and open to visitors.
More than just a museum showcasing works of art, the palace itself is the work of art. A visit here is like a step back in time: period furniture adorns every hall and stately room, larger than life chandeliers hang from every ceiling and walking tours makes one live history, rather than just view it. Nowadays, the Palace is dedicated to children’s artistic pursuits and often shows exhibits of St Petersburg’s young and talented.
The State Hermitage Museum
The pièce de résistance of St Petersburg’s art scene is undoubtedly the grand State Hermitage Museum, once the winter palace of the Russian Imperial family. One of the world’s largest, most exquisite and respected museums in the world takes centre stage right at the western end of Nevsky Prospekt and is rated the city’s number one attraction.
There are over 3 million works of art housed in the Winter and adjoining five palaces, although only sections of four of them are open to visitors, which is just as well. The collections are so extensive that seeing the ‘small portion’ available for public viewing is challenging enough.
From Renaissance paintings and Baroque sculptures to Ancient Egyptian artefacts; from Italian to German, Austrian and French artists, along with Russians of course…there isn’t a single time in history, or prominent international artist, whose work is not displayed here. It is truly mind blowing! Many experts believe that the fall of Communism in Russia, and the consequential opening of the Hermitage Museum to the Western world, was one of the best gifts for the international art scene.